Shakespeare and Early Modern Music

Christopher R. Wilson

in The Edinburgh Companion to Shakespeare and the Arts

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780748635238
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652297 | DOI:
Shakespeare and Early Modern Music

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This chapter pursues an archaeology of emotions, situations and materials, pinpointing when songs were sung and how, in the plays. It determines the instruments used, and the meanings attached to them, that single out for comment vocal forms (the madrigal and the ayre), composers and genres and the part played by musical references in theatrical production. It addresses the relationship between the music and songs of Shakespeare's plays and early modern music and musical practice. The use of song as interjected distraction or entertainment is rare in Shakespeare. The physical sound of instruments in Shakespeare's theatre had two functions: one to accompany entrances and exits, the second to add symbolic significance. Shakespeare cites vocal and instrumental genres of contemporary music and dance; he employs performed music from both art and popular cultures as mimetic and non-mimetic kinds. Music for Shakespeare was an essential part of his dramatic and thematic material.

Keywords: Shakespeare; early modern music; madrigal; ayre; composers; genres; musical practice; theatre

Chapter.  12335 words. 

Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism

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